Shortly before the Blogher July 2005 conference, I got a new digital camera that came with a video feature. At the conference, I attended a session on video blogging with Ryanne Hodson and was inspired to go play in a vlog sandbox. So, I played and played and posted the good, the bad, and the ugly on YouTube, OurMedia, and Blip.TV.
I was also curious to see whether there were nonprofits using vlogs to promote their causes. I did a little research last October, and uncovered a few. Now almost a year later, there is renewed interest in vlogging and nonprofits. There has been online conversation during the past couple of weeks on vlog list, Netsquared, TechSoup and Blogher.
Here's a synthesis.
- Given the amount of time, technical skills, and resources that vlogging requires, when is it appropriate for nonprofits to adopt it? Alternatively, are there ways that nonprofits can harness the power of vlogging that doesn't require a high degree of capacity? Is there a way for nonprofits to partner with established vloggers?
- What is a more effective strategy - "viral video" a la YouTube or developing an ongoing relationship with audience via a "vlog."?
- Lots and lots of technical questions -- from file formats to what video distribution service to use. The good news is that there are some wonderful how-to resources like Ryanne Hodson's FreeVlog and recently published book.
- It's still too early in the adoption cycle to understand the impact and benefits or what type of strategy or combination of strategies are most effective for nonprofits.
On the Vlog list, well known vlogger Michael Verdi summarized his experience with a nonprofit theatre company over the last 12 years and pointed to capacity issues that prevent many nonprofits from embracing video on the web, vlogging, etc. "Nonprofits are always running close to the edge in terms of money and time. Adding new technology to the mix is a serious investment of both of those resources. This becomes especially difficult if it's work that is outside of the staff's skills and routine." A nonprofit just beginning to incorporate video into their web presence notes on a recent Netsquared post, "We don't have that much capacity to do video work, so its kind of catch-as-catch-can."
How Nonprofits Are Using Vlogging and Video on the Web
NDRC (Natural Resource Define Council) has become to post videos on YouTube.
Notes Ian Wilker, who works for NDRC, on a post on the TechSoup form, "Of course, there's a big difference between posting a one-off like our Redford video, and publishing a vlog on a regular basis. Its about developing an ongoing relationship with subscribers that's two-way via comments or video responses. I suspect this relationship-based model is more likely to create passionate users/constituents for nonprofits than the viral model that YouTube's built around. (For this kind of video development I like services like blip.tv that are built for videobloggers.)"
There are also examples where organizations have shared their video elevator pitch on YouTube rather than an ongoing channel. NJ Based non-profit charity, Pedals for Progress, the world's largest recycler of used bicycles, has a short video about its work on YouTube. It's unclear from the profile on YouTube whether it was created by someone on staff, a volunteer for the organization, or a fan. In contrast, this example from The Grameen Foundation includes the organization's logo and web site url in its YouTube profile.
Some organizations have used "YouTube" as another distribution channel for a video or PSA developed and presented in other ways. Take for example StopAids "Shining A Light On HIV". This video was projected against a building during Pink Saturday of Pride weekend 2005 to an audience of thousands and also distributed on YouTube.
Save the Children has posted one of the 60 second posts on Youtube
Most of these examples have been available from YouTube or one of the other video distribution services which includes many videos on a wide range from topics. There is also Get Democracy - which is a YouTube-like Web site with a nonprofit/social-change as well as dogooder.tv "enables nonprofit organizations to present new videos and existing media assets to new audiences." Read what Ken Goldstein, nonprofit consultant blog, has to say about it.
Vlogging's super star, Ryanne Hodson, of freevlog.org and who has taught thousands to blog (including me) as well as many nonprofit organizations, shared this vlog project created by her sister. It's called the "Sustainable Route" and it's documenting the sustainable movement across the country. This is a project that includes more than one vlog post and it will be interested to watch how the community around sustainability is developed.
Andy Carvin, a skilled vlogger, has a collection of vlog posts that include some about nonprofit organizations. The full list is here. I especially like his video post of a busy Internet cafe in Accra.
After viewing these videos, I see a range of artistry and production values. For me, I find vlogs and video blogging exiting because of these aren't highly polished, over-produced, slick videos. But, if the vlog post is just plain crappy or the lack of production values gets in the way of hearing or understanding the message, how effective can it be? I think there's a fine line that nonprofits will need to walk.
I also find it exciting to watch the early adopters and experiments and I hope that the nonprofits working in the medium today share what they are learning, particularly what works, what doesn't and how they might improve. This paves the way to integrate these newer technologies more effectively down the road.
I love J Goldstein's comment. Another reason to say why nonprofits should explore this?
I'm of the view that, while it may seem tough for nonprofits to fit video production into their mix of activities, as media making skills in our society become more widespread, and the competition starts using video (and yes,there is competition in the nonprofit arena), most nonprofits will use web video in some way. It's just too useful and easy to make not to become widespread. It will take awhile, but it's coming sooner than you might think.